What Facebook Knows | npENGAGE

What Facebook Knows

By on Dec 7, 2010


What Facebook Knows

Think about all the things people post on Facebook or any other social networking website. That can be a good thing and sometimes that can be a bad thing. What happens in Vegas stays on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Foursquare.

What Facebook KnowsFast Company‘s Co.Design blog recently featured an infographic using Facebook data to show when people break up. David McCandless plotted Facebook relationship data and found that most break ups happen two times a year: right around spring break and a few weeks before the winter holidays. It’s a whimsical anecdote until you take a few steps back.

If you watch Mark Zuckerberg’s latest 60 Minutes interview about the new profile changes on Facebook, then a bigger picture emerges around where the website is going. There will be an inevitable collision between search and social recommendation. Stay tuned on that aspect of things.

Yesterday’s launch of the new Facebook profile design also shows the company’s focus on presenting a more complete online picture of you. That means Facebook needs more profile information about you and based on what I’ve seen so far — people are updating their interests, employment history, and other details at a rapid pace. The feed is being fed like a holiday goose.

Facebook’s value is mostly derived from what it knows about its users. Thankfully those users voluntarily cough up a tremendous amount of information about themselves. And you don’t need the details from a trip Mardi Gras or excerpts from diplomatic correspondence to gain insight from the information.

The relationship break up trends show what you can learn from one piece of data and 500 million people. Just imagine what your messages, chats, photos, likes, jobs, interests, apps, games, and devices tell Facebook. The illusion of privacy is just that — an illusion.

This isn’t meant to sound like a Big Brother warning. There’s no law that says people must overshare. People ultimately have a choice on what they type. But it should get you thinking. Expect social privacy to become a much bigger issue in the future.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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